How to Be Smarter than Facebook

Habits are powerful. Tech companies know that. It's no accident we reach for our phones 150 times a day and spend more time scrolling through Facebook than caring for our pets.

"Our brain loves to latch on to rewards that arrive quickly and Facebook has taught us to expect novelty after novelty," says author Charles Duhigg. "Our brain becomes trained at the pace of rewards, and then begins to crave that pace."

But if you are wise to the tech companies' tactics, you can take control of your own habits. Charles Duhigg and New Tech City are here to help this week. 

"These habits are powerful only when you are not aware of them. As soon as you make deliberate choices, the habit is delicate and falls apart."

Duhigg wrote The Power of Habit: How We Do What We Do in Life and Business in 2012. It explains how habits are formed and altered and often manipulated. But his bestseller doesn't include much about technology even though Duhigg knows the tech sector pretty well -- so much so he won a Pulitzer Prize reporting on it.

So in this episode of New Tech City, Duhigg updates his habit thesis to address the clever and devious advances in addictive tech that have come out in the past two years.  

"If you decide you want to read something deep and meaningful, then your brain will actually begin assigning more reward salience to a New Yorker article and less to Facebook," Duhigg says. "But you have to make a deliberate choice."

In this episode: 

  • Why Uber and Seamless are so satisfying.
  • Why Facebook makes you scroll down and down.
  • What the bevy of new fitness tracking apps are really offering as a reward.
  • What needs to happen for society at large to get smarter about tech habits.